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April 16, 2014

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UNLV’s Boyd Law School profs back Sotomayor

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Federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court nominee, testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on July 16.

While the Senate prepares to vote on the nomination of federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, a group of UNLV professors has thrown its support behind her.

Twenty-five professors from the Boyd Law School sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging Sotomayor’s confirmation. The professors were among more than 1,200 law professors from 170 law schools across the country sending support.

The UNLV petition drive was headed by law professor Ann McGinley, who called Sotomayor “a careful jurist with an excellent academic and legal record.”

Sotomayor’s confirmation is likely and her presence is just what the Supreme Court needs, said Ray Patterson, associate director of the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution at UNLV. Patterson said he first heard of Sotomayor in 1995 when he worked in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

“She was a fine jurist,” Patterson said. “I never heard anything negative about her. She seems like a good fit for the country. She is a women and a Latino, and a little variety is good. There is not enough balance on the court.”

Patterson said the hearings were dull compared with hearings for Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed, and Robert Bork, who was not.

The two issues that generated the most interest at the hearings was a speech by Sotomayor in which she talked about the perspective of a “wise Latina” and an appellate court ruling involving several white firefighters claiming discrimination because they weren’t promoted because no blacks passed the promotion test. That case was overturned by the Supreme Court.

Patterson said he thinks Sotomayor diffuse the “wise Latina” issue by saying it was more of a rhetorical flourish and that she wouldn’t be deciding cases on the basis of race. He said those trying to blame Sotomayor for the appellate court’s ruling that went against the white firefighters were misguided because she was going by an old rule that the Supreme Court eventually changed.

Sylvia Lazos, a constitutional law and critical race scholar at UNLV, called Sotomayor a “middle of the road jurist” and suggested there is nothing radical about her as some of her opponents have tried to portray.

Lazos, who helped organize and participate in an UNLV panel discussion on Sotomayor this month, said Sotomayor diffused her “wise Latina” comment by telling people her intent was to say she could bring a different perspective and life experience to the bench.

As a Hispanic, Lazos said she takes great pride in Sotomayor’s nomination and likely confirmation to the Supreme Court. She said it’s important to bring different groups to the table, especially Hispanics since they are the largest minority.

“I am glad it finally happened,” Lazos said.

As for what kind of justice Sotomayor will be, Lazos said she expects Sotomayor will disappoint a lot of people on the left, and conservatives won’t think she as bad as they thought she would be.

“I think she is going to be a solid middle of the road justice,” Lazos said. “I think she is probably in the same mold as (Justice David) Souter. She will be a pretty centrist Democrat.”

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